The indigenous people in India are commonly known as Adivasi, which means the original inhabitants. They are recognized by the constitution of India as Scheduled tribes and approximately 8.4 % (85 million) of the nation’s total population belongs to Scheduled tribes.
The state of Maharasthra in southwest India has around 50 scheduled tribes. Residing in hilly areas, far away from the civilization, they have for centuries utilized the nature for survival and they still do to a large extent. The majority of the Adivasis are landless farmers. Their livelihood is majorly based on primitive agriculture and every year they are dependent on the sufficiency of rain to get enough food for the year. Though many of the tribal people have skills in areas such as agriculture, carpentry and ayurveda, they are unable to get a sufficient yearly income and supporting the family is a constant struggle. This forces them into migration.
Despite several constitutional privileges, the Adivasis remain among the poorest in India. Though the infrastructure has improved and the contact with the society is more frequent today, they still suffer from discrimination. A lack of awareness about education leads to a majority of children not completing their basic education. The schools in the villages are normally only upto 4th standard and the infrastructure and facilities are poor. From 5th grade onwards the children have to travel far by foot. Sometimes 10 km a day. This leads to a high percentage of school dropouts and the children start working at an early age. The boys go hunting, which is normally the men’s responsibility.
Bad ventilation and lack of electricity makes it difficult for children to study in their homes, hence they wake up early to do their studies in front of the bonfire outside the house.
Poor living conditions, lack of basic utilities, bad hygiene, water scarcity and lack of health care are major issues, which contribute to the challenges which the Adivasis are facing today.
The pictures are part of a project, taken during a period of five years in tribal villages in the state of Maharashtra.